|posted on 11-Sep-2001 12:12:15 PM by mockingbird39|
|Author's Note: Hi, guys! This one is finally done. If you need to refresh your memory because it's, um, been such a long time coming you can find the first 22 parts here: viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=17708&page=1|
Zan dreamed of love.
On Antar, there was war, but all he could see was love. Ilyena was a captain in his army, and the moment he had first seen her, he had know what he had been looking for all his life. His marriage to Ava was as public as the rest of his life had always been, but what he and Ilyena shared was the stuff of secret dreams. Their stolen moments together brought a pleasure so close to pain that Zan was never sure he would survive them. But survive he did, and he left counting the minutes until he could return.
“How did you manage to come here today?” Ilyena stretched, pulling one arm free of the sheets tangled around them. They lay on her bed beside a large bank of windows overlooking the grounds of Ilyena’s family villa, where her troops were quartered.
“Inspecting my troops,” Zan murmured, kissing her where ever he could place his lips.
Ilyena turned on her side, watching him with tender eyes. “Do you always do such thorough inspections?” she asked archly.
Zan reached for her, his only thought to keep on touching her. “Only those who deserve it,” he growled, taking her into his arms.
When he released her, a blissful eternity later, she rolled onto to her stomach and leaned over him, tracing his jawline with her forefinger. Spent, all he could do was watch her through contented, half-closed eyes. “You’re so tired, beloved,” she murmured, caressing his chin.
He kissed her fingertips. “You wear me out,” he teased.
She shook her head solemnly. “No, this war wears you out.”
“And you,” he added. “You never rest, Ilyena. It’s always the war.”
She fell silent, but he knew what she was thinking. The war had brought them together, and when it was over there would be no more secret trysts, no more afternoons in her bedroom, no nights in his tent. No more reasons for Zan to come to the villa. When the war ended, so did this piece of heaven that had sustained him and kept him sane through a thousand battles. What would he do without her then? But years of war had taught him to live for now, and now was Ilyena—the touch of her skin, the scent of her hair, the deep violet eyes that held his soul captive. He took her hand and pressed it to his heart. “You refresh me, beloved. One hour with you is better than an entire night of sleep. I need you, Ilyena.”
She smiled, and his heart turned over as it always did when he saw the quiet shine in her eyes. “And I you,” she answered.
“Which is why I cannot let you and your troops go and guard Vorak Pass.”
The smile faded and her eyes turned rebellious. “You need us there and you know it,” she said flatly, rising from the bed. She grabbed a robe and wrapped it around her like a shield. “Who else would you send?” she demanded, her head held proudly, her shoulders rigid.
He hid a smile, wondering if she knew how little the diaphanous robe actually concealed. “The Eleventh and the Seventeenth.,” he told her, pushing himself to a sitting position.
She laughed disdainfully. “The Eleventh hasn’t got the manpower, and the Seventeenth hasn’t got the heavy artillery. Vorak will fall in a day.”
“That’s why I’m sending them together,” he answered. “They’ll hold it.”
She slapped a hand on the table in frustration. “They will not,” she retorted. “They will be overrun by Kivar’s troops—Kivar has more men, and his artillery is light years ahead of even the Eleventh’s.” She shook her head. “No. Lose Vorak and you will lose the capital. And you cannot lose the capital.”
Zan sighed, and the crushing weight of his responsibility landed squarely on his shoulders once more. He had known for months that they would lose the capital, but Ilyena refused to admit it. “Ilyena, everything necessary to our survival has already been moved out of the city.”
“To the mountains, where we can live as outlaws and fight like guerrillas.” Fury flashed in her eyes. “This is our planet, Zan. I will not surrender our strongholds without a fight.”
“We have fought,” he reminded her. “We’ve fought for seven years.”
She wasn’t listening. “Fifteen generations of my family have served fifteen of yours in that city. My great-grandfather died defending it in the last war. I will not sit idly by—”
“No one has ever accused you of being idle, love,” Zan chuckled. He stood and went to her, wrapping his arms around her stiffened, resisting body.
“I am serious, Zan,” she protested, pulling away. She crossed to the hologram battle map that stood against the wall. “Vorak,” she said, pointing to a narrow pass in the midst of a mountain range. “Kivar’s forces are camped here,” she continued, pointing again, and a tiny army appeared on the map at her fingertip. “My troops will march through here, and will be at Vorak in three days.”
Zan joined her at the map, shaking his head. “Ilyena, even you cannot hold the pass with only three thousand.”
Her chin was set stubbornly. “We can hold it long enough for the Ninth to come through the Nary Valley and reinforce us from the west.” As she spoke, she mapped out the plan on the board.
Zan studied it carefully, impressed. Ilyena was a brilliant strategist. If she had been born a man, she would be a general by now—maybe even a consul. At length, though, he shook his head. “The Ninth’s artillery will take too long to move. By the time they get there, Kivar will split his army and trap you against the mountains.”
She wasn’t going to give up. “The First, then,” she suggested, referring to Zan’s own unit. “You can make it there in five days—I know you can.” She changed the map to reflect the switch, the heavy silver cuff on her arm glistening as the sunlight as she raised her hand. It was the badge of her office as head of her family, and had been worn by her father, her grandmother, and countless others of her ancestors. Intricately carved and bearing a large opal at its center, it marked her as leader of her clan—but on Ilyena’s slender wrist it seemed a cruel weight.
Zan calculated the time it would take to move his seven thousand men and all their gear. Five days was optimistic, but it could be done. But if they were delayed. . .He shook his head. “Ilyena, it’s suicide. You’ll lose half your men.”
“Maybe not. If Kivar’s traveling with as much weight as the last reports said, we’ll be there well ahead of them. Besides, at best he’s got five thousand. With our combined armies, we’ll rout him—save the capital and maybe even get the man himself.” She watched him fight with himself, then touched his face. “We can’t pass up a chance to end this war—we’ve lost too much already.”
Zan closed his eyes. The plan was a good one—it could very well work. But there was no room for error. “Ilyena, I’ve lost enough to that man—I can’t lose you, too.” He opened his eyes and put a hand on her cheek. “I would have gone mad a thousand times if I didn’t know you were here waiting for me. If I lose you—”
She laid a finger over his lips. “You won’t lose me. You’ll come for me—I know you will.”
“I’ll always come for you, Ilyena,” he said fervently. Their embrace was desperate, and Ilyena could sense his anguish at this choice. Finally, he spoke in a hoarse whisper. “Promise me this, Ilyena—if you do this, and we survive, it will be your last battle. I’ll make you a consul, a senator, I’ll put you on my personal staff—whatever you ask. Only promise me you won’t go into battle again. Please.”
He could sense Ilyena’s conflict. She had been a soldier all of her adult life; she had the heart of a warrior, and that heart did not rest easily. But she was also a woman, and her woman’s heart broke when she saw the anguish her beloved suffered each time she went to battle. In the end, it was the woman who won out.
“I promise, my love,” she murmured against his shoulder. “Vorak will be my last battle—I swear it.
Relief, tempered by fear for her safety in the impending battle, washed over him. “Five days,” he muttered. “Five days only.”
He felt her nod. “In five days we shall drive Kivar’s armies away from the capital and force his retreat to the Dunal Plains.”
“In five days whether we hold Vorak or not I will appoint you to your family’s seat on the Council.”
The challenge flared again in her eyes. “I will finish the battle,” she warned. “I will not leave my troops to fight alone.”
He regarded her with resigned eyes. “I will not let you out of my sight.”
The determined frown dissolved suddenly to a smile, and her eyes radiated tenderness. “Fair enough,” she said, then cast a glance outside at the fading afternoon sunlight. “You must go, beloved. It isn’t safe for you to travel at night.”
Reluctantly, he released her. “I don’t want to leave,” he said as she began gathering his clothes.
“I wish you didn’t have to go,” she agreed. “But it is only for five days. We’ll be together again in five days.”
He could tell why, but her words did little to reassure him. “I know,” he said, then turned to her, suddenly grim. “Ilyena, if it becomes necessary to retreat, just do it. Don’t wait for orders. Call a general retreat, take four of your best men and go east into the mountains. I’ll meet you at Barhava.”
She came to him, her fingers tracing the lines of worry on his brow. “You will come to me at Vorak, and you will not be late,” she said. A smile made her eyes shine like stars. “I believe in you, Zan. And. . .and I never believed in anything.”
He kissed her forehead, then pulled her to him again, breathing n her familiar scent. “I know you do,” he murmured. “I know you do.”
Edited by - mockingbird39 on 09/15/2001 16:41:27
Edited by - mockingbird39 on 09/18/2001 12:08:55
Edited by - mockingbird39 on 10/04/2001 11:26:37
[ edited 6 time(s), last at 22-Jul-2002 7:34:06 AM ]
|posted on 14-Sep-2001 4:39:51 PM by mockingbird39|
Max dreamed of war.
Without Ilyena, Zan barely remembered that anything existed beyond the sounds or mortar and shelling, the smell of gun powder, and streets that ran red with the blood of his people.
Seven miles from Vorak, Zan jumped down from the troop carrier, followed closely by his chief lieutenant, Rath. Zan pulled off his heavy battle helmet and stood silently, listening. In the distance, he could hear artillery.
“We shouldn’t be hearing that yet,” he said to Rath.
“Unless the Seventh has driven Kivar back,” Rath answered.
“Not with three thousand.”
“Kivar could have fewer troops than we thought,” Rath suggested.
“Or he could have more.” Zan’s mouth was set in a grim line. “Damn it! He shouldn’t even be here yet.”
Just then a bright green globe of light shot into the air high overhead and hovered there for a moment, changing to red before it faded away. A distress flare. Rath looked quickly to his kind. Zan’s face had turned gray beneath his deep tan, and he looked as though he had been punched in the stomach.
“He surrounded them,” Zan breathed. “He’s got them trapped against the mountains.” He crammed his helmet back onto his head and drew his sidearm. “Get me two light jeeps and enough men to fill them. You ride with me,” he ordered flatly.
Rath touched his shoulder. “If he’s got them trapped there’s nothing we can do,” he said quietly.
Zan’s eyes never strayed from the mountains. “Ilyena is there,” he said through clenched teeth.
“She’s probably already ordered a retreat and headed for the mountains.”
Zan gave a harsh bark of laughter. “Is that what you think Ilyena would do?” he demanded.
Rath took a deep breath. “This is suicide. You’re too valuable to go in there.”
Zan roughly yanked his shoulder from Rath’s grasp and turned away. “Get me the jeeps,” he ground out.
* * * * * * * * * ** * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Zan lived a dozen lifetimes in the time it took to reach the vicinity of Vorak Pass. For the first hour he swung back and forth between fury and fear as the sounds of shelling grew steadily closer. Then, abruptly, there was silence—silence that was immeasurably more frightening than any gunfire could ever be. He rested his head in his hands, barely able to breathe as his heart cried out silent, anguished prayers to whatever might be listening.
Finally, Rath took one hands from the steering wheel. “There smoke beyond that ridge,” he said, pointing. “That’s probably where. . .where it happened.”
Zan’s fingers clenched into fists. “Hurry,” was all he said.
The battlefield was chaos. Wounded from both sides lay moaning on the muddy ground and the dead were strewn everywhere. Woodenly, Zan climbed from the jeep and looked at the carnage. Most of the soldiers wandering around wore the gray uniforms of Zan’s army, and a part of his mind that still functioned registered that they must have driven Kivar’s troops away. Rath grabbed a passing soldier.
“What happened here?”
The boy was dazed, and looked barely old enough to be out of school, but he snapped to attention. “The enemy split us in two, sir,” he said. “The captain sent the left flank to defend the capital in case the pass was breached. She launched a ground missile at the outcropping where the enemy was trenched. I think. . .I think we got most of ‘em. But—” His face was a mask of horror. “—but they had missiles, too. They hit some of our heavy artillery and. . .” He looked around at the dead and dying that had once been his unit, unable to go on.
Zan took him by the arm. “Where is your captain, son?” he asked.
The boy’s face crumpled. “The first explosion was near the medical tent. She went to help move the wounded. But then—there was another explosion—”
Zan’s grip tightened. “Where?” he demanded.
The boy pointed as tears coursed down his cheeks. “There—the medic tent was over there.”
Zan took off at a run, pushing aside Rath’s restraining arm and everything else that stood in his way. “Ilyena!” he screamed over and over, straining to hear an answer that never came. “Ilyena!”
Then he saw a familiar flash of silver.
She had fallen face down, one arm stretched in front of her. The heavy cuff on her wrist glinted brightly in the sunlight. Her hair had come loose and tumbled in a tangled mass over her shoulders, obscuring her face. But Zan knew what he would find, even before he had pulled her free of the wreckage and jagged metal that had fallen over her. He turned her over gently, murmuring her name. Her eyes were closed, her face remarkably peaceful. But for the thin trickle of blood from the corner of her mouth, she could have been asleep.
Zan bent his head, listening for her breathing, knowing he would hear nothing. “Ilyena?” he murmured, grabbing her wrist to feel for a pulse. “Beloved, please wake up. I’m here.” But her wrist was limp, her fingers already icy. He shook his head. “No, Ilyena—please, no.” He raised his head and looked frantically for help. “Medic!” he screamed. “Someone, help!”
Rath came running, but stopped short when he saw Ilyena’s broken body. “Is she—” he began, but was never able to finish his question. It didn’t matter; Zan hadn’t heard, anyway.
“Ilyena, beloved, please,” he was whispering, his hands helplessly roaming over her body. “I need you, Ilyena, please.” He stroked back the stray pieces of hair that framed her face, he hands—his whole body—shaking. “Five days, beloved. I told you I’d be here in five days.” His voice broke and he gathered her limp, unresisting body into his arms. “I made it in four. I made it in four.”
His head bowed with grief for his fallen comrade and sympathy for his king, Rath could only watch as Zan threw back his head and screamed her name.
|posted on 14-Sep-2001 4:42:38 PM by mockingbird39|
Serena dreamed of creation.
With the capital safe once more, Nania could continue with the work her king told her could one day be central to the survival of their race.
She had never expected him to call on her so soon.
“Your Highness, the technology is simply not perfected. We cannot independently sustain the pods for long periods of time.” Nania folded her hands and tried to remain calm as she faced her king. It was not an easy thing, when his eyes were red-rimmed, and bore a look of haunted desperation. She had heard the rumors—that the king had not joined any of the victory celebrations, or even been to the palace where his wife and the rest of his family waited. Some whispered that his state was due to the death of Ilyena na’Barrak, the captain of the Seventh Army, in the recent battle. One of Nania’s lab assistants had repeated a rumor that King Zan had been spending his nights in the chamber where Ilyena’s body lay awaiting burial.
Nania couldn’t vouch for the validity of those rumors, but privately she thought that whatever had occupied the King of Antar’s nights had not been sleep.
She knew that her eyes bore the same marks of sleeplessness, for she, too, had been unable to rest after hearing of Ilyena’s death. Ilyena na’Barrak had been her closest friend since childhood, and the news of her sacrifice had kept Nania from being able to celebrate the victory her friend had wrought. But she knew that Ilyena’s heart had been that of a warrior, and that knowing even this outcome would not have swayed Ilyena from this course. Nania bit back a sigh. So many things I know, she told herself. Then why do I feel so helpless?
Looking across the table at King Zan of Antar, she realized there was one more thing she knew—that he had not come here to ask idle questions. But on this, she prayed she was wrong.
“How long?” Zan demanded. “How long can you sustain them?”
Nania shook her head. “Six months? Seven? Not long enough to make the journey to Earth.”
“But you can create the hybrids,” Zan persisted. “Ones that could survive on Earth as a human.”
She nodded slowly. “Yes, we can do that. But unless the pods survive long enough to get to Earth—”
“The pods aren’t the only way to nurture a hybrid to maturity,” he interrupted, staring at her hard.
Nania’s mouth hung open for a split second. “You. . .you read my report,” she said, recovering herself as best she could.
He nodded grimly. “I read all your reports,” he affirmed. “And I read them again last night.”
“All of them?” she asked faintly.
“Yes.” He stood and began to pace her laboratory. “You said that if a hybrid embryo were created and implanted in a human woman, it would gestate and be born like a human baby.”
“Most likely,” she agreed, her concern growing. “But the ethics of implanting a human woman artificially—without her knowledge—”
“I know all about the ethics,” he said flatly.
“And you want me to—”
Nania sat back in her chair, dumbfounded. “Majesty, with all due respect. . .I don’t think I can do this.”
He whirled on her. “It was not a request,” he said, his eyes giving off dangerous sparks. “And you are the only one who can do this.”
Nania had imbibed absolute loyalty to her king along with her mother’s milk. She lowered her eyes. “Yes, Majesty,” she murmured.
“Very good.” He turned to go. “Rath will see to it that you have all you require.”
Did that include absolution for what he had just ordered her to do? Still stunned, she nodded. “Yes, Majesty.”
He paused in the doorway. “One thing more. This remains a secret—as does everything about the identity and destination of the hybrid. You and I alone know these things.”
“Of course,” she said woodenly.
A moment passed, then King Zan suddenly crossed to her, the royal façade gone. In that moment, he was but an anguished, desperate man whose grief-stricken eyes pleaded for understanding. “Please. I would not ask if there was any other way—if there was any way I could live without her—”
Nania shook her head. “No, Majesty—you need not explain.”
He drew a deep, shuddering breath. “Please help me. You loved her, too—I know that you did.”
“You mean Ilyena,” Nania said slowly. “You want me to use Ilyena’s body—”
“Yes.” Zan’s shoulders slumped wearily. “I can’t just let her die. I have to know she’s not really gone.”
Nania’s heart nearly broke at the pain in his eyes. Grief like that could drive a man mad. “Majesty,” she began carefully, “you know that even if this succeeds, you may never get her back. She may not remember who she is, or she may never be able to return.”
His smile was bleak. “That does not matter. So long as part of her lives—anywhere—I can face each sunrise.”
Nania opened her mouth to answer, but paused as a grim-faced man approached the door of her lab. He pushed a wheeled table into the room, upon which rested a simple coffin of dark wood. Nania closed her eyes in grief. Ilyena.
Rath pushed the table to a vacant space along the wall, then stood quietly, watching his king. He had not dared leave Zan alone in the days following Ilyena’s death, fearing what grief might drive the king to do. Now he averted his eyes as Zan crossed the room and fell to his knees beside the wooden box where all that remained of his beloved lay.
Zan put a hand on the smooth, cool wood, trying to imagine that it was Ilyena he touched and not her coffin. He bowed his head, his forehead furrowed with a grief that surpassed anything he had ever known. I love you, Ilyena, he thought, and was almost sure that somewhere, she was listening. I love you more than life. If I could only join you— He shook his head. No. I will not abandon the fight you died for. I will fight—until my last breath, just like you did. But you must live again. I swear, beloved, you will live again. And this time you will be safe. He took a deep, shaky breath and pressed his lips to the top of the coffin. “Forever, Ilyena,” he murmured aloud.
His face a mask of sorrow, the king rose to his feet. “You will help me?” he asked Nania in a low voice.
Nania eyes were on the coffin that held the body of the woman she had loved as a sister. “I will help,” she whispered.
“Thank you.” He turned to go, then stopped. “You must promise me something.”
She nodded mutely, tearing her eyes away from the coffin. “Yes, Majesty?”
“When my time comes, you must send me to her.” He stared at nothing for an instant, then looked at her. “I don’t want her to be alone.”
Nania looked at him in surprise, then realization dawned. King Zan of Antar had the look of one who did not believe he would be long in this life. She shook her head, not wanting to believe. “But that could be many years—”
Zan shook his head. How long could a man live with only half a soul? Aloud, all he said was, “Promise me.”
Nania could only nod. “I promise,” she said. She was silent for a moment, then dared meet his dark, compelling gaze. “But, Majesty, what if the two of you don’t remember this life? Who you were. . .are to each other? What if you don’t recognize each other?”
A bittersweet smile touched his lips. “Ilyena and I share one soul. If I know nothing else, I will know her.”
Without another word, he turned and left the laboratory, leaving Nania to her task.
|posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:07:39 PM by mockingbird39|
Liz dreamed of rebirth.
She lived in a small town in the desert, and always had, but sometimes it seemed she could remember something more. In her dreams, she saw mountains, city lights, and, sometimes, battle.
“No!” Claudia sat straight up in bed, her heart pounding and her skin clammy. It had been the dream again—the shadowy images of destruction that had haunted her sleep for as long as she could remember. She leaned forward and put her head in her hands, taking deep breaths to calm herself. Beside her, her husband stirred and reached out a hand to touch her.
“You okay?” he asked groggily.
“Fine,” she answered, squeezing his hand. “Go back to sleep.” She lay back down and waited until his even breathing told her he slept again, then, very softly, she rose from the bed and left the bedroom.
She walked quietly through the house, stopping to check on her infant son, Jeffrey, who lay fast asleep in his crib. He looked so peaceful in sleep that she envied him, though she knew that on many nights he, too, woke shaking and terrified. Sometimes she wondered if she had somehow passed her dreams on to her son, too.
Not wanting to wake the boy, she tiptoed from the room and opened the door to the patio. The night was still, as only desert nights can be, and the stars hung so low in the sky it seemed she could touch them if she only held out her hand. Sometimes, when she closed her eyes, she could see them even closer, as though she was gliding through them.
Claudia sighed heavily and hugged herself against the chill. Her dreams often made her feel like this—restless, longing for something she couldn’t quite name. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her husband and her life here in Roswell, but sometimes she felt as though she were waiting for something—for someone so precious to her that his absence made her feel incomplete.
She closed her eyes tightly, trying to recall the shadowy images in her dreams, but they hovered, as always, just out of reach. Once in a great while, something came through clearly—most often she saw people running, followed by a blinding flash of light. But there were other things, things she could see, hear, feel: wind rippling across a meadow, stirring the long field grasses; a man’s laughter, soft, meant for her ears only; and love. Claudia shivered as she remembered the love she felt in those dreams—love so vast, so strong, so eternal that it made her believe in miracles.
Zan. The word echoed through her mind like a clarion call, bringing it with it feelings so strong her heart pounded. But what did it mean? Was it a place—the place with rolling meadows and lavender twilights that she sometimes longed for? Or, more likely, was it a person? Maybe the man whose face she could almost see and whose touch burned in her dreams? All her life Claudia had known she was waiting for something—someone. Perhaps the name of her unknown destiny was Zan. She smiled softly, whispering the name to the starry desert sky.
Claudia often wondered if there was some explanation for her dreams—memories of a past life, maybe, or some strange psychic connection with someone who had witnessed these things.
Or, she reflected with a sigh, maybe I’m just crazy. But even as she thought it she knew it wasn’t true—her dreams were real, sometimes more real than the life she led during the day.
Long ago she had given up hope of ever putting her dreams behind her. Secretly, she knew she didn’t really want them to end. They were a part of her, as surely as her dark brown eyes, her love of music, and her fascination with the stars, her curiousity about the 1947 crash that the government now insisted was a weather balloon.
But, strangely, she had never told anyone about them—not even her husband. At times she wondered if this was a betrayal, but how was she to tell him about these strange feelings, about this longing she could not begin to describe? She knew he must feel the distance it put between them; knew he must realize that there were parts of her that he could never share. More than once she had caught him staring at her while her mind wandered to things light-years away, and the sadness in his eyes then never failed to send a pang of guilt through her heart. He knew there were things she had never shared with him, yet that didn’t lessen his love for her—not one small bit. He loved her with the same unquestioning devotion with which she loved in her dreams, and it tore at her heart that she had never quite managed to love him in the same way. She had often wondered if she should tell him about her dreams, but she feared that would only hurt him more. So she kept them to herself, always waiting, wondering, watching.
Her baby’s cry jerked Claudia from her reverie. Quickly, she went back inside the house and to his room to pick him up. He clung to her frantically, takinig in sobbing little gulps of air. Claudia rocked him gently, whispering words of comfort as he slowly calmed.
“Shh,” she murmured. “It’s okay. Mama’s here.”
When he had calmed a bit, he raised his head from her shoulder, blinking his great brown eyes as he looked around the room. When his wandering gaze fell on the window, through which there was view of the night sky, he stopped, reaching out a chubby hand.
“What do you see?” Claudia asked him softly. “Do you see the stars?” She smiled and kissed the top of his head. “You like the stars, too, don’t you?”
Balancing him in one arm, Claudia dragged the bentwood rocking chair her father had made for the birth of his first grandchild over to face the window. She settled herself and Jeffrey in it so that they both could look outside, and then they sat there in silence, rocking gently until they both were asleep.
|posted on 3-Oct-2001 11:22:49 AM by mockingbird39|
Zan fought his way to wakefulness, shaking off the memories brought by his dreams—no, not only his own dreams, for he had seen more than that. From the tryst at Ilyena’s villa, to the battlefield at Vorak, from Nania’s lab to Claudia’s quiet desert reverie—he had seen it all. He drew a ragged breath, remembering at last where he was, and sat straight up.
“Liz,” he gasped, still fighting the fear and the grief that had gripped him in his dreams. For now he knew why he had been so drawn to Liz Parker from those first few moments on the street, why everything about her seemed so familiar—because it was. Decades ago and light years away he had come to know her body and soul, had been joined to her by something so strong even death could not sever it. The same capricious Fate that had let Zan find his soulmate in Ilyena all those years ago had been immeasurably cruel to take her so quickly. But perhaps Fate could yet atone for that long-ago grief.
Zan threw off the blanket that had tangled around his legs and reached for the clothes he had left on the floor beside the sofa. He was tugging on his jeans when Tony walked in from the bedroom, rubbing a hand across his sleepy face. “Hey,” he said around a yawn. “Where are you goin’? It’s still early.”
“I gotta go see Liz,” Zan said distractedly, searching for his shirt.
A sleepy smile lit Tony’s face. “Yeah?” he asked. “’Bout time. What were you doin’ here last night, anyway? She kick you out already?” He crossed to the tiny kitchen and pulled a carton of milk from the refridgerator. “Nah, she prob’ly doesn’t know you that well yet.”
“I shoulda gone over there last night,” Zan told him. “I shoulda gone right after I knew. . .god, I’m an idiot.”
“If you let that one go, you sure as hell are,” Tony agreed. He gestured to the door. “Get over there.”
Zan shrugged into his coat and headed for the door. “I’m going,” he said over his shoulder as he left the apartment.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Serena knocked hard on Liz’s door. “Liz, come on! It’s me! I need to talk to you!” Frustrated, she fell back a step and looked at her watch. “You can’t have gone to school yet,” she muttered.
“Hey.” Zan rounded the corner, looking surprised to see Serena. “Where’s Liz?” he demanded without preamble.
“What are you doing here?” Serena retorted. “Where the hell have you been?”
Zan recoiled. He opened his mouth to answer, then changed his mind. “Is Liz in there?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Serena said, unable to stop staring at him. Like Zan, she was still not quite recovered from her dreams, and while most of her anger came from the fact that Zan had been avoiding Liz, she still harbored some of Nania’s resentment against King Zan for sending Ilyena to war. She frowned darkly at him. “Haven’t you heard from her?” she wanted to know.
Zan looked away. “I. . .no. We haven’t talked. That’s why I came here—I need to talk to her.”
Serena’s lip curled. She didn’t share Nania’s unquestioning loyalty. “Took your sweet time, didn’t you?”
“That’s between me and Liz,” Zan answered, his jaw clenched. “Do you know where she is?”
“No, I don’t,” Serena snapped. “I came right here when I woke up. . .I had these dreams—I think Liz had them, too.” She looked a little startled. “And you, too.”
“Yeah—yeah, I know.” He stared at Serena. “Did you know that you—”
“That I what?” She looked up at him, frowning. “You think that I’m. . .I’m one of you?”
“You got another explanation?” he asked with a shrug.
She looked thoughtful. “Well. . .nothing comes to mind, but—” A look of frustration crossed her face. “I can’t be an alien,” she hissed. “That’s impossible.”
Zan nodded. “You just keep tellin’ yourself that. . .Nania.”
Serena bristled. “That’s not my—” She began, but stopped when she heard footsteps on the stairs. She groaned when she saw who it was. “Here we go,” she murmured.
“What are you doin’ here?” Zan demanded as Max reached the landing.
Max looked just as confused. “Is Liz okay?” he asked without preamble.
“Why wouldn’t she be?” Zan shot back. “Did she tell you something?”
“Down, boy.” Serena stepped between them. She looked at Max. “I thought you were going home this morning?”
Max nodded grudgingly, still eyeing Zan. “I was. But then those dreams—did you guys have those dreams?” At their nods, he continued. “It was so real. . .I had to make sure she was okay.”
“And your hotel didn’t have a phone?” Zan’s jaw was set in a stubborn line.
“She didn’t answer when I called,” Max said defensively, his face a twisted mirror image of Zan’s. “Is she here?”
“I’m trying to find out,” Serena said, taking out her cell phone to call Liz. She swore when she realized she had a message. “I think she left me a message,” she muttered, dialing her voice mail.
“Why weren’t you answerin’ your phone?” Zan demanded.
“I can’t get a signal on the subway, your highness,” Serena retorted icily.
“What are you doing leaving her alone after those dreams?” Max asked Zan. “Didn’t you know she’d be upset?”
“I came as soon as I had the dreams,” Zan informed him. “I got here as fast as I could.”
“What the hell were you doing not being here in the first place?” Max demanded furiously. “Did you think I came to the Center yesterday for my health? What were you doing leaving her alone? You were supposed to be with her!”
“You know, I find that real funny comin’ from you,” Zan snarled.
“She went looking for you,” Serena annoucned suddenly, her cell phone pressed to her ear. She pointed vaguely in Zan’s direction. Anyway, whatever happens, meet me in the diner on 57th Street that we went to that time with those people, okay? Liz’s message continued. I really need to talk to you about those dreams last night—you had them, too, right? I’ll see you there. Serena looked at the two of them. “She’s going to a diner on 57th Street. Come on—I’l show you both where it is.”
Zan shot Max a harsh look. “Is he comin’?” he demanded.
“I’m not leaving until I know she’s okay,” Max said stubbornly.
Serena wasn’t exactly pleased with the situation, either. “You heard the man,” she said wearily. “I guess it’s the three of us, then. Liz said she’s taking the subway. We’ll catch a cab—maybe we’ll even beat her to the diner.” Without waiting to make sure they were following, Serena headed down the stairs.
Outside, Serena hailed a taxi with practiced ease. Zan noted that he had never gotten a taxi that easily—but then, he had never tried hailing one while wearing a short skirt and tall boots, either. He climbed in beside her as she gave the driver directions. Max took the front seat.
“Do you know Telly’s Diner on Fifty-Seventh?” Serena asked the driver.
He eyed Max and Zan with questioning eyes. “Yeah, but there’s no way you’re getting close to that right now.”
“Why not?” Zan demanded.
“Subway accident between here and there. They’ve closed the streets down all around Fifty-Seventh. I guess they’re afraid there could be an explosion.”
Zan’s face went white. “Liz.”
|posted on 2-Nov-2001 11:03:33 PM by mockingbird39|
|Sorry this took so long, but here you go. More soon. Love, Melanie|
Liz glanced at the toddler that sat in front of her on the subway and smiled when he met her gaze. Immediately, he hung back and buried his face in his father’s coat, but dared to peak up at her for a split second with a shy smile in his big blue eyes. She winked at him and he hid his face again, but dared peek at her over his father’s shoulder.
She smiled and leaned back in her seat, staring absently out the window. Maybe I’ll go home to Roswell and see Alexander, she mused absently. If I got the dreams because Grandma was—was part of Ilyena, then maybe he remembers what she. . .what we were, too. Maybe that was how he could draw the Antarian system—he’d seen it before. Because it was home before.
Liz remembered hearing about genetic memory, about people who believed that memories could be passed down in DNA, just like hair color, musical ability, and a host of other things. At the time she had been doubtful—after all, wasn’t memory a far different thing from brown hair or freckles? But after the events of the past few days—not to mention the dreams she and the others had experienced last night—she was more open to believe it. And, it seemed, once genetic memory was unlocked, there was no stopping it. All morning she had been recalling more things—more of Ilyena’s life and memories. She remembered Ilyena’s childhood, the years she had spent being primed to succeed her father, who was a high-ranking government official before the beginning of the war, and a general after it. She remembered the first time Ilyena had seen Zan, shortly after the death of her father. Ostensibly, the king had come to pay his respects to his late general, but Ilyena had known that the real reason for his visit was to ascertain whether or not she was fit to take her father’s place. Liz could remember Ilyena’s fury at his lack of confidence, as well as her amazement when she realized that the admiring light in King Zan’s eyes was for her alone. Liz remembered the way Ilyena’s breath would catch in her throat whenever Zan said her name, and how strongly she had believed that he would come for her, even as her army was trapped against the mountains and she sent the distress flare. But most of all, Liz remembered how much Ilyena had loved Zan—how completely devoted she had been to him, how her last thoughts had been of him, how her only regret had been that he would never know that she didn’t blame him.
But I can tell him now, she thought suddenly. And I can tell him how much she loved him. Liz smiled, amazed at how strong Ilyena’s love had been—and still was. I must have remembered him, even when I didn’t remember anything else, Liz told herself. And Serena, too, she realized. From the first day I met her, I felt like I had known her forever. Liz hoped Serena was okay. The shock of the dreams was hard enough for Liz herself to accept—and Liz had been dealing with aliens for years now. She couldn’t imagine how confused Serena must be.
The subway car stopped to let off passengers, and Liz watched impatiently as the doors shut again. Two more stops, she told herself as the train lurched forward again. The toddler in the seat in front of her was smiling at her again, and Liz lifted a gloved hand to wave at him when the train suddenly jolted to a stop. A startled murmur came from a few of the passengers, but most were used to unexpected hold-ups. A moment later, the driver’s voice came over the intercom system.
“Sorry folks, there’s going to be a little delay. We’ve got a disabled car up ahead.”
Liz heard murmurs of disgust and gave a long sigh of her own. What if Zan goes looking for me before I get there? she wondered, for there was no doubt in her mind now that he would find her. Whatever had made him turn away from her could not possibly stand in the face of the love that had suffused her dreams. If Zan loved her in this life one tenth as much as he had loved her before, he had to come for her. Liz pulled off her gloves and sat back in her seat. Zan would find her. It was only a matter of time.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“I don’t understand why I didn’t remember all of this before.” Zan stuffed his hands in his pockets as he hurried down 57th Street with Serena and Max at his heels. “If it was all there in my head, why couldn’t I see it?”
“I told you—genetic memory often doesn’t surface until something triggers it.” Serena walked as fast as she could in her high heeled boots. “For you, it was probably meeting Liz, and then thinking you had lost her. It paralleled what happened before with Ilyena, and brought back the memories.” She glanced at Max. “Same thing for you—you lost her. It makes sense that it would bring up memories of losing her before.”
Max winced. “Right,” he murmured. “But what about you? Why are you having these memories now?”
“I don’t know—except maybe that Liz and I are so close. . .we’re like sisters, really. Maybe all the intense emotion she’s been experiencing lately have spilled over to me, too.” Serena shrugged. “We’ve always had a really strong bond. I just didn’t realize how strong it was.”
“Are you remembering more now?” Max wanted to know.
Serena looked thoughtful. “Sort of. It’s not like I’m suddenly struck with new memories. It’s just like suddenly the door is open and I can remember all these things.” She frowned suddenly. “I remember when you died. I remember how awful it was. I remember how we all didn’t know how we were going to survive.”
Still walking ahead of them, Zan’s clenched his jaw. He remembered feeling that same way when Ilyena—He shook his head. He couldn’t dwell on that now. He had to find Liz and make sure he didn’t lose her this time.
“When were you sent here?” Max asked Serena.
She gave him a disbelieving look. “Well, since I was dead at the time. . .”
“Oh, right,” Max answered, feeling foolish. “Well, were you. . .born? Or did you come out of a pod like we did?”
“I was born,” Serena answered. “It must have been someone in my family. I don’t know my father’s family well—he took off when I was seven. I think I’d have heard about it if someone from my mother’s family had been found wandering around as a child.”
“So you’re like Liz,” Max observed.
“I guess so,” Serena agreed.
“We’re getting’ close,” Zan said suddenly. “Look.” Up ahead they could see flashing lights from a police car and barricades across the road. Traffic was already at a standstill.
“The diner’s past that,” Serena said.
“Then she didn’t get there on the subway, and probably not by car, either,” Zan said flatly.
“Maybe she walked?” Serena suggested hopefully.
“It’s like forty degrees,” Zan pointed out. “She wouldn’t o’ walked all this way.”
“Probably not,” Max agreed reluctantly, wrapping his coat more closely around him. “This cold is brutal if you’re not used to it.”
“Liz has been here for three years,” Zan said shortly.
“And she lived in Roswell for eighteen,” Max retorted. “I’m just saying she probably didn’t walk, all right?”
“Fine—you’re right. Now could we just keep walking?” Zan quickened his pace. “I’m not gonna lose her again.”
Max’s jaw tightened. “You wouldn’t have lost her this time if you’d gone to her yesterday,” he murmured.
Zan stopped in mid-stride and spun to face Max. “What was that?” he demanded, stepping close to the other man.
“I said you wouldn’t have lost her this time if you had gone to her yesterday,” Max repeated, looking Zan straight in the eyes.
Zan’s hands clenched into fists at his sides. “Just like you wouldn’t o’ lost her five years ago if you hadn’t made her feel like she meant nothin’ to you,” he ground out from between clenched teeth.
“Do you really want to get into this now?” Max asked.
“What if I do?”
“Fine.” Max faced him, the two of them squaring off like twisted mirror images.
“Are you both insane?!” Serena shoved her way between them, roughly pushing them apart. “Liz is somewhere in this city, alone, maybe at the scene of an accident, and the two of you want to stand here and settle who the bigger jack ass is?” Fury flashed in her blue eyes as she looked from one to the other. “Yeah, I guess that sounds about right for you. You two just stay here and figure out which one of you is the man. But I’m going to go find Liz.” Without another word, Serena turned on her heel and stalked down Fifty-Seventh Street.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Liz looked at her watch and sighed. The train had been stopped for almost thirty minutes, and she was starting to get restless. The toddler in front of her evidently shared her restlessness, for he fidgeted on his father’s lap and started to fuss. The father patted his son’s back, trying to comfort the child, but the boy would have none of it. Liz gave a sympathetic smile as the conductor’s voice came over the loud system again.
“Attention, passengers,” he said, his voice strained and worried this time, “there is an emergency up ahead. We will be exiting this train and proceeding to the nearest emergency subway exit. Please—”
The conductor’s announcement came to an abrupt halt when a low rumble made the train shake briefly. Alarmed, Liz sat up straight and looked around. Suddenly, she knew with terrifying clarity what was about to happen. She jumped to her feet. “Get down—cover your heads!” she called out. “Everyone, down!” The rumbling grew louder and a brilliant light made the dim tunnel bright as day. Liz shouted out one last warning and threw herself down as the floor, covering her head with her arms.
It was then that the explosion came.
[ edited 1 time(s), last at 2-Nov-2001 11:06:52 PM ]
|posted on 12-Dec-2001 4:32:44 PM by mockingbird39|
| Part 29|
Breathe, Liz. Liz forced a gulp of air into her lungs and opened her eyes. The train was dark, lit only by two emergency bulbs at either end of the car, and the tunnel beyond them was even darker. The floor beneath her was at a crazy angle; it appeared the car had been knocked off the tracks and was leaning against one wall of the tunnel. All around her, Liz could sense the bodies of her fellow passengers, but few made any sounds. Cautiously, she rose to her knees and began feeling around on the crazily titled floor. She jumped as her hand contacted flesh.
“Are you okay?” asked a male voice, and in the dim light Liz could just make out that it was the father of the toddler. The boy was clutched to his chest, whimpering.
Liz nodded, still in shock. “Fine. . .I think.” She pushed her hair out of her eyes. “Are—are you okay? And him?” she added, pointing to the child.
The man nodded. “I think so.” He glanced around. “I don’t know about anyone else.”
Liz started to stand, but thought better of it when she pitched forward in the darkness. Grabbing the edge of the seat to stop herself from falling, she carefully moved forward. “We’ve got to get these people out of here,” she said firmly.
“Are you sure? What if there’s another explosion?”
Liz glanced at the windows of the car. They were cracked in a million places, but they had not shattered. Not yet. “The only reason we’re alive is because those windows held up last time,” she informed him. Looking them over, she noticed that one was buckled, and another was threatening to detach from the frame. “They aren’t going to hold up again.”
“You mean if there’s another explosion?” he asked. “Do you think there will be—”
“I don’t know.” Liz looked around at the other passengers, who were beginning to stir. “I don’t want to wait around and find out.”
“I think we’d be safer in here,” said another voice, and Liz turned to see a middle-aged woman sitting up and looking at them. “They’ll send someone to come get us—I don’t want to wander around in these tunnels alone.”
“We wouldn’t be alone,” Liz said shortly, not stopping to wonder where this sudden take-charge attitude was coming from. “We’d go together.” She cautiously rose to her feet, using the wall for balance, and made her way over to the other passengers. “We have to make sure everyone is all right.”
The man with the child followed her lead without question, and after a moment the woman did the same. It didn’t take long—there were only half a dozen other passengers in the train. As she moved among them, Liz was initially relieved; with the exception of minor scrapes and bruises, everyone seemed unharmed. But at one end of the car an elderly man lay, pale and shaking, between two seats. “I think my leg is broken,” he said as Liz knelt down beside him.
“Don’t move it, then,” Liz murmured automatically, gingerly running her hand over the leg he indicated. Six inches below his knee there was a telltale bump—larger even than Liz had feared. Quickly, she cast around for something to use as a splint. If they had to move him—
“Is he okay?” The young father knelt next to Liz, still holding his son.
“Not really,” Liz said quietly. “If we’re going to move, we need to immobilize his leg. It’s broken.”
The other man nodded. “Okay. I think they keep first aid kits in all the cars—I’ll go see what I can find.” He rose carefully and walked toward the end of the train.
“Do you want to sit up?” Liz asked
“No, I don’t think so. . .I’m a little dizzy.” He looked at Liz curiously. “How did you know?” he asked.
Liz frowned. “How did I know what?”
“About the explosion,” he answered. “You told everyone to get down.”
Liz sat back on her heels, perplexed. “I don’t know,” she said honestly. “The sound. . .when I heard that rumbling I knew what it meant.”
“Here, I found the first aid kit.” Liz looked over to see the young father beside her once more. “I think we can use these to make a splint,” he added, laying two long, rather rough pieces of pressboard down beside him. “I tore up one of the seat cushions,” he said in response to her questioning look. “Have you ever done this before?"
She shook her head apprehensively. "No, but--"
"I have," he interrupted. "I was a medic in the Gulf War." He lowered himself to the ground. "Here," he added, handing Liz his son. "This is Tyler. Would you mind holding him while I do this?"
"No--not at all," Liz said hastily, setting the child in her arms. "Hi, Tyler," she told him with what she hoped was a reassuring smile. "I'm Liz."
"Nice to meet you, Liz," the boy's father said, opening the first aid kit. "I'm Chris.” He leaned down to speak with the elderly man. “Sir, I’m not going to try to set this now—I’m afraid I’d do more harm than good. But I’m going to splint it to keep it from getting any worse, okay?”
The man nodded, still pale. “I understand. What can I do to help?”
“Just lay still,” Chris told him. He seemed totally calm, and the part of Liz’s brain that wasn’t screaming in shock registered that he would have been a good medic. The thought startled her; she had no way to judge that. Then she understood—Ilyena did.
Ilyena would get everyone out of here, Liz told herself. She would have known what to do. So I must know, too. She closed her eyes briefly, holding Tyler to her chest. He cuddled against her contentedly, murmuring to himself as she tried to remember what Ilyena would do in a battle situation. After a moment, she opened her eyes. “I’m going to try the intercom and see if I can talk to anyone in the other cars.”
“Good idea,” Chris said. “We need to tell them—”
“To get out,” Liz finished, rising to her feet. “Because whatever caused the first explosion could happen again at any time. They should go in small groups and stay together, and follow the tracks back to the last station.”
Chris looked up at her in surprise. “Good plan. See if you can reach them.”
Liz started for the front of the car. “I’ll be right back.”
She had gone only a few steps when Chris’s voice stopped her. “Have you. . .done this before?” he asked, looking at her curiously.
Liz smiled faintly. “You could say that.”
|posted on 14-Dec-2001 1:32:34 PM by mockingbird39|
| Part 30|
“I’m not just going to stand here and wait.” Zan paced just behind the police barrier, his steps jerky and impatient.
“Calm down,” Max said, watching as Serena did her best to sweet talk the young cop standing guard. “It looks like he’s telling Serena something.”
“Probably his home number,” Zan retorted, glaring at the police beyond the barrier.
“It’s the best chance we’ve got,” Max reminded him.
“The best chance we’ve got is to go down there and find her,” Zan disagreed. “I’m not going to stand here and let her die.”
“We don’t even know if she’s down there,” Max said.
“She’s down there,” Zan assured him with grim certainty.
“Just because she wasn’t at the diner?”
“No.” Zan stopped and shook his head, looking at the ground. “She’s down there. I know she is. She’s alive—but she’s scared.”
Max stared. “How do you know that?”
Zan looked hard at him for a moment, then started to pace again. “When Liz and I—when we made love,” he began finally, “we connected.”
Max’s jaw tightened, but he nodded. “The flashes.”
“No, it was more than that.” Zan shoved his hands into his pockets. “We could. . .see through each other’s eyes. Feel each other’s feelings.” He glanced at Max and shrugged. “I just know, okay?” he said as Serena approached them.
“There is a train stuck between stations down there,” she said without preamble. “They haven’t been able to raise it on the radio since the explosion.”
“Explosion?” Zan and Max asked in unison.
Serena looked from one to the other with a grimace. “Could you not do that? It’s weird.” She nodded at the subway entrance. “There was an explosion down there, and apparently it sent a fireball down the tunnel. There’s at least one train they haven’t been able to reach. Liz could be on it.”
“Liz is on it,” Zan muttered, and Serena looked at him sharply.
“How would you know that?” she demanded, then held up her hand. “Oh, wait. Liz told me you two had some kind of weird psychic thing happening when you shagged her.” A flicker of annoyance crossed her face. “Shame your psychic antenna was down last night.”
Zan ignored her. “I’m goin’ down there to look for her,” he informed them.
“That’s brilliant,” Serena told him with withering sarcasm. “So you can get yourself lost in the tunnels, run over by a train, or maybe even blown up. Provided you get past the cops, of course.”
“I know those tunnels,” Zan said. “I lived in ‘em for most of my life.”
Serena looked a little chastised, but she wasn’t convinced. “You’ll never get past the cops,” she insisted.
“Sure I will,” he answered, smiling grimly. Before their very eyes, Zan’s bulky jacket and cargo pants transformed into a policeman’s uniform. His spiky hair became a short, regulation hair cut and his several earrings disappeared. “Like this,” he said, heading for the barrier.
“Hang on, Houdini,” Serena said, grabbing his arm. “Forget something?” she asked pointedly, tapping her eyebrow.
“Huh? Oh, right.” Zan blinked and his eyebrow ring disappeared, too. “I’ll bring her back here,” he told them over his shoulder.
“I’m going with you,” Max said, starting to follow.
“No, you’re not.” Zan stopped, standing in Max’s path. “I need you to stay here with Serena in case she makes it out without me. She might be hurt, and you can heal her.” He met Max’s gaze, prepared for a fight, but Max only nodded.
Zan nodded, too. “Right.” He paused for a moment. “Look, if something happens to me, you gotta promise me you’ll take care of her. And I don’t mean phone calls, either. I mean watch over her, face to face. Don’t let her be alone.” A muscle in his jaw twitched and he looked away. “She’s gotta be safe this time.” He looked at Max again, his eyes hard and determined. “You think you can do that?”
“I promise,” Max said without hesitation.
“Good.” Zan turned abruptly and walked toward the subway entrance.
Max and Serena watched as he hurried down into the entrance. “Do you think he can find her?” Serena asked quietly.
Max couldn’t take his eyes from the subway tunnel. “He has to.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Can he travel?”
Chris looked up to see Liz standing over them. “In a hurry?” he asked.
“We’re vulnerable here,” Liz said, patting Tyler’s back. “There’s no cover, and no place to run if there’s another explosion.”
“Well, I agree with you there,” Chris said, carefully tying the bandage in a knot. “I’d like to get out of here as soon as possible. Did you get the intercom to work?”
Liz shook her head. “No. It’s blown out. I hate to leave everyone else here, but. . .”
“We can come back for them. Or at least let someone know they’re down here.” Chris stood carefully and helped the elderly man to rise. Pale and shaky, he leaned heavily on the handrail.
“He can’t walk on his own,” Liz observed, instinctively reaching out to help him.
Chris beat her to it. “I’ll help him. You carry Tyler.”
“But don’t you want—”
Chris shook his head. “You can’t carry him. You’d both get hurt.”
The elderly man cut in. “Leave me here. You can send someone back.”
“No.” Chris didn’t hesitate. “You need medical attention. If anyone goes, it’s you.”
Liz looked from one to the other. “I guess we all go then.” She glanced at the other passengers, who were huddled in a group near one of the doors. “Which way do we go?”
“Back toward the station, I guess,” Chris said. He crossed the sloping floor to one of the doors and pried it open. Cautiously, he and Liz leaned out to look down the tunnel. Liz blinked in the smoky darkness, and before her eyes had adjusted she heard Chris swear.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, then saw the answer to her question. One of the train cars behind them had come loose, blocking the way back to the station. “Can we get under it?” she wondered.
Chris shook his head. “It could tip over while we were beneath it,” he said.
“Still a better chance than waiting for another explosion.” Liz shifted Tyler’s weight and leaned out for a better look. “There’s go to be another way.” She peered into the darkness and made a quick decision. “I’m going to go look,” she said. “Here, take him.” Before Chris could protest, she handed Tyler back to him and stepped out of the car.
“Wait, where are you going?”
“To see if we can get past that,” Liz said determinedly. “It’s still our best chance.” Chris looked about to protest, but she shook her head. “We’ve got to get out of here. Look, I’ll be right back, okay?” And she turned and picked her way carefully down the tunnel.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Zan dispensed with his disguise as soon as he was safely into the subway tunnel. It took a great part of his concentration to keep it up, and he needed all his energy if he was going to find Liz. He couldn’t shake the feeling that she was still down here, maybe nearby. Hopefully nearby. I’m going to find her, he told himself. I’m not gonna lose her this time. Not again. Not ever again.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“We can get through.” Liz climbed back into the subway car, slightly more disheveled than when she had left. “The car is blocking the tunnel, but I got one of the doors open and I think we can climb through it and come out the other end, past the blockage.” Liz looked at Chris. “I think we should hurry.” Her sense of foreboding had increased tenfold in the time she had been gone; it had been all she could do to backtrack this far.
Chris nodded. “I understand.” He glanced at the other people in the car. “Did you hear that?” he asked them. “We’re going back to the last station. I think it’s our best chance.”
Liz reached out to take Tyler back. “I’ll take him,” she said. “Let’s get going.” She took a deep breath, settled Tyler on her hip, and set out into the semi-darkness of the tunnel.
|posted on 6-Mar-2002 9:55:09 AM by mockingbird39|
| Author's Note: I know, I know, I know--finally. But I promise, I'm almost finished with this one. Enjoy!|
“I just keep remembering things,” Serena said, leaning against the police barrier. “It’s—it’s overwhelming. It’s like I had this whole other life.”
“You did,” Max said. “You lived and worked and fought and loved—and died.”
Serena looked at him sharply. “Do you remember how you died?” she asked.
Max nodded slowly. “Sort of. I remember knowing it was going to happen. Once Kivar came into the city it was only a matter of time.”
Serena was quiet for a moment, then said softly, “Do you remember what your sister did?”
Max only nodded. He fell silent for a long time, then took a deep breath. “Do you think Liz’s father knows?” he asked.
Serena shrugged. “I don’t know. It might have been too deeply buried for him to remember. Or he might just think the memories are dreams—like Claudia did.”
“Do you think Claudia ever knew?”
Serena’s eyes were sad. “No, I don’t. I think if she had, she would have told Liz.”
“Then why does Liz remember?”
Serena thought for a long time. “I think,” she began finally, “that maybe Liz is more sensitive to the memories. Remember how Ava told her that she was changed because you healed her?”
Max nodded. “I remember. You think that’s why she remembers?”
“Yeah, probably. It makes the most sense. Liz has spent so much time with you—with all of you—that she’s probably more receptive to whatever makes her remember.” Serena shrugged. “Same thing for me. Liz and I have been together almost every day for three years. We probably strengthened each other’s memories. The same thing is probably true for Liz’s brother.”
“Alexander?” Max frowned. “Alexander remembers?”
“He remembers something.” Serena told Max about the picture, leaving out the part about Zan finding it.
“Wow. He drew the system?” Max shook his head. “I didn’t know what the system looked like until Rath showed it to me.”
“Well, Alexander probably doesn’t know exactly what it means,” Serena clarified. “He just knows it’s something familiar. You probably had memories like that, too, back when you were a child. Children’s minds are less crowded—he may forget, over time.”
“So. . .you think we were all meant to come together like this?” Max asked.
Serena raised her face to the gray, winter sky. “Yeah. Yeah, I think we were. You asked me to send you to Liz. I know you wanted to be with her.”
“What about you?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t know who sent me, or where they sent me.”
“Oh.” Max glanced at her. “I know what that’s like. It’s hard.”
“I think it will be,” Serena agreed. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
They were quiet for a moment, then Max awkwardly put a hand over Serena’s where it rested on the police barrier. “When it does, if you need to talk, or something. . .” He stopped, letting the words hang there.
She smiled slightly, not looking at him. “Thanks.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“How’s he doing?” Liz hung back for a moment, walking just in front of Chris and his elderly patient. It was slow going in the tunnel, with little light and less space. They were forced to walk single-file most of the time, feeling their way over criss-crossing lines of track and rubble dislodged by the explosion. Liz hadn’t expected it to take this long to get back to the station. Now her greatest fear was that the station itself would be blocked by rubble and they would have to find another way out.
“He’s okay,” Chris answered. He was almost carrying the other man by the time, and both of them looked exhausted. “We’ll make it to the station,” Chris said stubbornly, then he glanced at Liz. “But if we have to go any farther, I don’t know.”
Liz bit her lower lip. “Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.” She shifted Tyler’s weight and hurried after the rest of the group.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Zan followed the subway tunnel for several hundred feet before he came to an old access tunnel he remembered from his days of living underground. He grimaced as a rat ran past him, almost over his feet. It had been a long time since he had been down here; it hadn’t gotten any more appealing. He knew he was somewhere close to Liz—he could feel it. But where? Lines crossed everywhere in the part of the subway system, and he wasn’t sure what line she would have been on. This access tunnel would take him to a junction where the lines crossed; he might have a better chance of finding her there. Plus, if there was another explosion, the access tunnel would take him out of harm’s way. And Zan was almost positive something was about to happen—something bad. Instinct? Premonition? He didn’t know and didn’t care. All he knew for sure was that he had to get to Liz as quickly as possible. He hesitated, squinting to see as far down the main tunnel as far as he could, but he could see nothing up ahead. He turned to go down the access tunnel, actually entered it before turning back. Though he couldn’t have said why, he knew Liz was in the main tunnel, and he knew he had to get to her fast. He took a deep breath and started forward, but had gone only a few steps when he heard a rumbling sound. Zan spun around to see a distant spot of light in the way he had come.
“No!” he shouted, his heart pounding in terror for Liz. He stared in disbelief as the light came closer, and only at the last second did he manage to move, leaping into the access tunnel as another fireball swept past him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Liz sighed with relief when one of the passengers at the head of the group shouted back that they had reached the station. It seemed an eternity until she herself reached it, and climbed onto the platform with help from two others.
“We made it,” she told Tyler, hugging him close. The boy seemed to know what she meant, for he laughed and bounced in her arms. “Your daddy will be here in a minute,” she said, looking down the tracks for him. He had been a bit behind, hampered by his efforts to help the man with the broken leg. After a moment, when he hadn’t appeared, she called out his name. “Chris? Chris, are you okay?”
Faintly, she heard his voice come back. “We—we’re fine. We’re almost there.”
He sounded exhausted, and Liz shook her head. They’re not going to make it in time, she thought, though she wasn’t sure exactly what she was racing against. She took a deep breath. “I’m coming down to help you,” she called.
“No, we’ll be fine. Go on—get out of here! Take Tyler and get out,” Chris answered back, his voice firm.
Liz turned to another one of the passengers who hadn’t yet gone to the surface. “Here, take him,” she instructed the woman. “Take him up to the surface and send someone back down to help.” Liz lowered herself back to the ground and dropped onto the tracks. “Go,” she ordered. “And hurry.” She picked her way back down the tunnel, moving quickly. “Chris? Chris, I’m coming. We need to hurry.”
“I told you to go,” Chris said, still struggling along. In a moment, Liz had reached him and slipped the man’s other arm around her shoulders, helping Chris support his weight.
“I know,” she answered, not apologizing. “One of the other women took Tyler up, and they’re going to send someone back down. But we’ve got to hurry. Come on.”
“Is something happening?” the man wanted to know. His forehead glistened with sweat in the dim light, and he looked ready to pass out.
“I don’t know,” Liz told him honestly, “but I—” She stopped as she heard the now-familiar rumble. She glanced at Chris, who had obviously recognized it, too. “Hurry!”
They limped along as fast as they could, finesse gone as they practically dragged the injured man along with them. Liz was trembling, her heart pounding in her throat, as they reached the station. A voice above them startled her. “Here, give me your hand.”
Liz looked up to see a police officer reaching out to her. “We have to get him out of here—now!” she cried.
The officer grabbed her arm. “Let’s get you out first,” he said, but stopped as the rumbling increased to a roar. He grabbed Liz by both arms and yanked her bodily onto the platform, then jumped off it to help Chris. “Go!” he shouted, but Liz wasn’t leaving without them.
“Let me help you,” she insisted, laying down on the cement and reaching out to help them. She helped haul the man onto the platform, and reached down to help Chris up. He pulled himself up with Liz’s help and the two of them turned to run for the stairs, but at that moment the roar became a deafening bang and Liz felt the ground shake beneath her feet. She screamed, but the sound was lost as she was thrown through the air, coming to rest a few feet from the steps. She cried out in pain as her head contacted the cement, and then everything went black.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Zan crouched in the tunnel as the explosion rocked the world. He shut his eyes against the terror that gripped him and waited until the tunnel was silent once more. Frantic now, he rose and looked out into the main tunnel, but he could see nothing. What if Liz hadn’t managed to get to safety? What if she had been trying to get out and— Ilyena would have tried to get to a station. She wouldn’t have waited for someone to come get her. Zan took a deep breath and tried to think clearly. He had to believe Liz would do that same thing. The closest station wasn’t very far, but if the tunnel was blocked, he wouldn’t be able to reach it through the main tunnel. The access tunnel would take him there, too, but it would be a longer route. But if I have to double back it’ll take me twice as long, he told himself. The access tunnel didn’t have tracks, either, meaning he could move faster. He hesitated only a moment before heading down the access tunnel as fast as he could.
|posted on 7-Mar-2002 9:49:56 AM by mockingbird39|
“There’s been another explosion,” Serena reported to Max as she came back from another talk with the police officer. “Some people from the stranded train managed to get out one stop ahead, but they think there were more people still down there.”
Max’s face was tense and white, and Serena felt a pang of sympathy. It seemed he really did care for Liz—he might even still love her. But he must know that even if Liz was okay, it would be Zan she wanted, and not him. Yet he had been ready to go down and look for Liz, putting his own safety at stake. And yesterday he had gone to see Zan, ending any chance that Liz might come back to him. Serena regarded Max with new respect. Maybe she had been wrong about him—or maybe he really had changed.
“Do you think Liz made it out?” Max asked tightly.
“I don’t know.” Serena looked down the street, wondering what to do.
“Zan said he’d bring her back here,” Max said, and Serena wondered if she was that transparent.
“I know,” she agreed. “But what if she’s at that other station and she’s hurt?”
“She could need help,” Max said softly.
“I think we should go,” Serena said firmly. “Anyway, I can’t just stand here anymore.” She paused for a moment, then glanced at Max. “Are you coming?”
Max hesitated only a second. “I’m coming,” he told her.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Zan ran down the tunnel, stumbling at times, only to keep going as though he hadn’t noticed. Only one thought occupied his mind: he had to get to Liz. His heart was pounding painfully, his breath was coming in short gasps, and somewhere along the line he had wrenched his knee, but he didn’t stop. He knew he was nearing the station; he only hoped she’d been able to get to it in time. If not. . .if not he’d backtrack along the main line and find the disabled train. It was possible she had stayed there. The darkness lessened as he got closer to the station; apparently some of the lights were still working. Zan quickened his pace, swearing when he stumbled and fell once again. This time he sliced his palm on a sharp bit of rock, but he barely noticed as he ran toward the faint light.
When he reached the station, Zan paused. It was in shambles, pieces of debris everywhere, some of it still burning. Zan squinted through the smoke, looking for some sign of life. “Liz?” he shouted, throwing aside pieces of metal and wood. He picked his way through the wreckage, his fear growing with every step. “Liz, please! Are you here?” Dimly, he registered that people were starting to come down from the street, rescue workers with flashlights and first aid equipment, but he paid little attention. “Liz!” he called again, crossing to the platform. Could she still be in the tunnel? He was about to jump down when he saw something that made him stop cold. Liz.
All the blood rushed from Zan’s head, for she lay like she had decades ago on the far-away battle field: face down, one arm stretched out in front of her, half-hidden beneath a large piece of metal. For an instant Zan froze, praying that history was not repeating itself in this immeasurable cruel way. He closed his eyes. Not again, he prayed, please not again. Barely breathing, he crossed to her and threw aside the debris that covered her. His heart pounded painfully as he knelt down beside her and turned her over. Her eyes were closed, her face pale and very calm. Zan touched her cheek, feeling tears sting his eyes. “Liz,” he murmured. “Liz, please. Can you hear me?” He bent his head and pressed his face to hers, desperate now. “Liz, please—I need you to wake up. I need you.” He gathered her into his arms, praying for some tiny sign that she had heard. “Liz, I—”
Zan raised his head with a jerk as she stirred and took a deep breath. “Zan?” she murmured drowsily.
“Liz!” he practically shouted. “Liz—oh, god. Oh, god, you’re okay. Liz, I—”
She opened her eyes and tried to sit up. “What are you doing here?” she asked. “How did you find me?”
Zan drew her close, clutching her to him gratefully. “I thought I’d lost you again,” he breathed against her hair.
“No,” Liz murmured, holding on to him. “No, you found me.” She smiled to herself. “You found me.”
For a long moment, all he could do was hold her, then he suddenly pushed her back. “Are you okay?” he demanded. “Are you hurt?” He touched her forehead, where a thin trickle of blood led from a small cut at her hairline. Without thinking about it, Zan healed it, then moved his hand to the side of her head, sensing the bump where her head had hit the concrete. He healed that, too, and looked at her closely for other injuries.
Liz laughed softly. “I’m fine. Thank you,” she said, taking his hand and holding it tightly. “I was trying to find you,” she told him. “I had those dreams last night. . .you—we—”
“I know.” He nodded. “It’s incredible.”
Liz touched his face, smiling. “It is,” she agreed, then remembered something. “Max and Serena. They had the dreams, too.”
“I know,” he said again. “They’re waiting for us.”
Her eyes widened. “You saw them?”
He nodded. “We all came lookin’ for you. We were all so worried.” He kissed her forehead, then looked around. “We should get outta here,” he said. “Can you walk?”
Liz struggled to get up, still sore in a dozen places from her landing on the cement. “I think so,” she said. Zan helped her to stand, then changed his mind and lifted her into his arms.
“Come here,” he said.
“Zan, I can walk,” she protested.
“I know,” he agreed, but showed no intention of putting her down. On his way to the subway entrance, one of the rescue workers stopped them.
“You okay?” he asked her.
Liz nodded. “I’m fine,” she assured him, but then pointed to the platform again. “But there are three men over there—one of them broke his leg in the first explosion, and one has a little boy upstairs. Please make sure they’re okay.”
The rescue worker looked in the direction she had pointed. “They’re being helped,” he told her. “Go on up and get someone to look you over. Just to be sure,” he added, when she started to protest.
“I’ll take care of her,” Zan told the man. He nodded his thanks and went up the stairs.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Do you see her?” Serena asked, trailing Max as they ran down the street. “Or him?”
“Not yet, but there are a lot of people,” Max threw over his shoulder. Sensing Serena lagging behind him, he grabbed her hand and pulled her forward. “Come on—we’re almost there.”
They came to a stop at another police barrier, and Serena stood on tip toe, trying to see over the heads of the crowd. “Please be there,” Max heard her murmur.
“She’ll be okay,” Max said. “Zan will find her.”
Serena opened her mouth to agree, but at that moment she saw a familiar figure emerge from the entrance. “There he is!” she cried, pointing. She started to climb over the barrier, hampered by her skirt.
“He’s carrying her,” Max said, helping her over the barrier, then climbing over himself. A policeman made to stop them, but Serena darted around him, dragging Max by the hand.
“Liz! Liz, are you okay?” Serena rushed to her friend as Zan set Liz back on her feet.
Liz barely had time to get her balance before Serena barreled into her, throwing her arms around her and bursting into tears. Liz hugged her friend back, her own tears starting. “It’s all right,” she told Serena. “I’m okay.”
“I was so worried about you,” Serena said, pushing Liz back to look at her. “Are you sure you’re okay?” She laughed suddenly, pushing back a piece of Liz’s dusty, disheveled hair. “Because you look terrible.”
Liz couldn’t help but laugh. “You try hiking in a sewer and see how you look,” she retorted.
Serena smiled. “Well, at least you’re not slimy,” she offered, giggling. She hugged Liz again. “Can you believe this? You and me—and Ilyena and Nania? We’re. . .”
“Czechoslovakians?” Liz finished, laughing.
“Yeah,” Serena agreed, giggling harder. She was about to say more, but caught sight of Max, who was hanging back, smiling wistfully. “Oh, Max—look, you were right. He did find her.”
Liz looked up to see Max looking at her hungrily. She released Serena and took a step toward him, smiling softly. “I thought you’d be back in Roswell by now.”
Max shook his head sheepishly. “After those dreams. . .I just had this feeling something was going to happen.” He shrugged. “I was worried about you.”
“Thanks, Max,” she said quietly. She hesitated for a moment, then hugged him tightly. When she stepped back, her eyes were damp again, and she realized that no matter what she and Max would always have a bond—even if they never saw each other again. She touched his face, smiling up at him. “Thanks for caring.”
He smiled sadly. “Always, Liz,” he said softly. He bent and kissed her cheek, then stepped back, looking at Zan. “Good job,” he told the other man.
Zan nodded grudgingly. “Thanks.” He looked at Liz. “We should get you home.”
Liz smiled and leaned against him. “Yeah—I’d like to go home.”
“Good idea,” Max said. He looked around. “I’m think I’ll go to the airport and see if I can get on another flight today. I should get back to Roswell.”
Serena looked surprised. “I—I didn’t know you were still going to leave today.”
“I have to get back,” Max answered. “This wasn’t really a planned trip.”
Serena looked from Liz and Zan back to Max. “Well, Liz you look pretty tired. Why don’t I just go with Max and wait with him until he gets a flight?”
It was Liz’s turn for surprise. “Um, yeah,” she said, frowning briefly. Was Serena. . .? I don’t believe it, Liz thought, unable to hide her smile. She’s actually going to get herself an alien.
“Good.” Serena smiled up at Max. “That okay with you? We can talk about. . .um, Czechoslovakia.”
“Okay,” Max agreed, smiling slightly. Liz almost laughed out loud. He really had no idea what he was about to get into.
|posted on 8-Mar-2002 10:25:38 AM by mockingbird39|
|Hey, everyone! Thanks for the feedback. Just wanted you to know that you can now find parts 1-22 [url=viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=17708&page=1]here on the repost board. Enjoy!|
[ edited 1 time(s), last at 8-Mar-2002 10:26:59 AM ]
|posted on 22-Jul-2002 7:24:07 AM by mockingbird39|
“So you never knew you were. . .” Max looked around to make sure no one was listening. “. . .not from around here?”
Serena shook her head and sipped her coffee. “Nope. I grew up on Long Island, and so did my parents. Well, my mom, at least. I don’t know about my dad. I guess that’s where I get my Czech blood,” she mused, grinning.
“Don’t you ever talk to him?” Max wanted to know, then he stopped and shook his head. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to pry.”
“No, it’s okay.” Serena shrugged. “I haven’t seen my father since I was nine. He doesn’t call anymore.”
“That’s too bad.” Max looked over at her, and thought he saw a crack in the flippant, sophisticated image she projected so well. “I can’t imagine growing up without a dad.”
“You have a nice family?” Serena asked wistfully.
Max nodded. “I have a great family.”
“Do they know about you?”
He shook his head. “Well. . .no. Isabel—that’s my sister—Isabel and I always knew we had to keep this a secret.”
Serena looked sad. “It must be lonely,” she said softly, no doubt thinking about the secret she herself would now have to keep for the rest of her life.
Max smiled a little. “Only if you’re really alone,” he told her.
A small smile made her lips curl up at the corners. “Can I ask you something?” she wanted to know.
He nodded, sipping his coffee. “Of course.”
“Why did you save Liz when she was shot?”
Max put down his coffee and took a deep breath. “Wow. That’s not what I thought you were going to say,” he said with a short laugh.
She raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you know why?” she asked.
He stared at his reflection in the stainless steel napkin dispenser on the table between them. “When I was eight years old,” he said finally, “I started a new school. On the first day, I remember standing on the playground in the middle of a whole bunch of other kids. Not one of them talked to me—no one even looked at me. But Liz did. She looked over at me and she smiled.” Max smiled faintly. “That’s what I was thinking about when I heard that gun go off and I saw Liz fall. About that day when she noticed me.”
Serena rested her chin on her hand. “You’ll always love her,” she said softly.
Max shrugged. “I don’t know. I. . .I hope it doesn’t always feel like this.”
“It won’t.” She reached out and put her hand on his wrist. “First love is strong. When you’ve got a history like you and Liz do—well, then it’s even stronger. But it gets better.” She smiled encouragingly. “How many people do you know that marry the first girl they ever loved? Because I don’t know any.” She shrugged a little. “You always remember, and you always have a little soft spot, but you move on. Happens to everybody.”
Max didn’t look entirely convinced. “Did it ever happen to you?”
Serena rolled her eyes. “God, yes,” she said with a laugh.
He smiled a little. “So who was he?”
Her eyes sparkled. “Who said it was a he?” she demanded. Much to her amusement, Max backpedaled furiously. Serena laughed. “Just teasing. His name was Brent Michaelson, and he was the tallest, cutest, most athletic seventh grader at summer camp.”
“And that was why you fell for him?”
She shook her head, her smile softening. “No. I thought he was a jack ass for the first two weeks of camp. Everybody thought he was so great. I figured he must think so, too.” She fell silent for a few seconds, remembering, and Max waited, knowing she would continue. Eventually, she did. “Then one day when we were at the lake, this little kid—I think he was maybe eight or nine—started showing off, and he got in over his head and started to go under. Brent was the only kid that noticed, and he dragged him back to the shore. I thought he’d let everyone know he’d just saved somebody—that he was a hero, but. . .he didn’t. When they got close enough so the kid could walk back to shore, Brent let him go so he could walk back himself. He never said anything about it.” Serena traced a well-manicured finger around the rim of her cup. “And I thought that was. . .really cool.”
Max chuckled. “And you were in love?”
She nodded, grinning. “Yeah, I guess I was. For that whole summer. We sat together at meals and put our towels close together on the beach. And when the summer was over, we promised we’d write. But. . .we never did.” She took a deep breath, staring at nothing for a moment. “But you know what? If Brent Michaelson walked up to me on the street tomorrow and asked me for help, or even just to have a drink with him, I’d do it. And I’d do it with a smile on my face.”
“That’s. . .very romantic,” he said with a grin.
She shrugged again. “It’s the truth.” Sobering, she reached out and squeezed his hand. “Max, you’ll always love Liz—and she’ll always love you, too. And it sucks that you guys lost each other—especially now that you know what you are to each other. But it doesn’t have to own you. You can find someone else. You should. Liz wants you to be happy.”
“That’s not as easy as it sounds,” he said ruefully.
She flashed him a grin. “Nothing worth having is easy to get, Max.”
He chuckled a little. “Why are you being so nice to me?” he asked.
Serena picked up her coffee. “Well,” she said, “I’m hoping when you reclaim your throne you’ll fund my research.”
Now he laughed for real. “I’ll take that under advisement,” he promised. He looked over and noticed her coffee cup was almost empty, and he was about to ask if she wanted a refill when a flight announcement came over the loudspeaker. It was Max’s flight, and he found he was sorry to leave. “That’s me,” he said reluctantly.
Serena nodded. “It was good to meet you, Max Evans,” she said. “I’m glad you were here today.”
“Me, too,” he said. He shouldered his bag and stood up. “Thanks for keeping me company.”
“My pleasure,” she told him. “Have a safe flight.” She put on her coat, briefly shook his hand, and then turned to go. “See you around.”
He thought that was unlikely, and that thought made him a little regretful. “Yeah,” he said vaguely, and watched as she walked away. After a few seconds, he turned and walked in the opposite directions. He hadn’t gotten far when he heard her call his name.
“Max!” she called, and he turned around to find her standing a few yards away. “One more thing!”
“What’s that?” he called back.
She grinned—even at this distance, that grin was impossible to mistake. “Next time you find someone you think you might love, go after her. And don’t give up until she knows how you feel.” He nodded, a little embarrassed at the stares they were getting. But Serena didn’t seem to notice. “Promise?” she persisted.
He nodded again. “I promise.”
She nodded, too, seeming satisfied. “Good,” she said, and turned to go.
He stood there staring after her, and then all of a sudden he called her name. “Serena!”
She turned back around. “What?”
“I don’t have your number!” he called.
There it was again—that bright, easy grin. “Sure you do,” she called back. “Check your back pocket.”
Max reached into his pocket and found a folded slip of paper. Pulling it out, he unfolded it and found a phone number scrawled beneath her name. Puzzled, he raised his head and found her already gone. He stood there for a second, then shook his head and carefully folded the paper, tucking it securely into his wallet. Something told him he didn’t want to lose that number.
* * * * *
Zan unlocked Liz’s apartment door with a wave of his hand and followed her inside. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked.
Liz unbuttoned her coat, noting the stains that marked the tan wool. “I’m fine. Just tired—and a little sore.”
“Can I help?” Zan wanted to know.
She grinned and held out her coat. “Could you, um. . .?” She gestured to the stains.
Zan smiled and ran a hand over it. The stains vanished. “All better?” he asked.
“Best dry cleaner I ever had,” she answered, standing on tip toe to kiss him. She hung up her coat and took his from him, hanging it next to hers. A long sigh seemed to come from her whole body. “This apartment never looked so good,” she confessed, pushing her hair back from her face. “I—I think I’m going to take a shower.”
He nodded. “Okay. Call me if you need anything.”
“I will,” Liz assured him, then walked into the bedroom.
When she was gone, Zan walked slowly around the living room, touching Liz’s things, looking at her pictures, reading the titles from the spines of her books. Finally, realizing he was hungry, he decided to order some food for both of them and looked around for a phone book. He remembered seeing one in Liz’s bedroom, so he crossed the living room and knocked briefly on the door before going in. The room was empty; he could hear water running in the bathroom and figured she was already in the shower. The phone book was on Liz’s desk, next to the phone. He sat on the edge of the bed and lifted both onto his lap. Without thinking, he reached for the remote control and flipped the television on while looking through the phone book.
“You’re watching Channel Nine News, and we are live at the Fifty-Seventh Street subway station where two explosions this morning have left the subway shut down and several passengers unaccounted for. Police say that a train was stranded between two stations when the first explosion happened, and that while a handful of passengers escaped before the second explosion, there could still be more passengers in the disabled train. Authorities aren’t saying if they believe those passengers to still be alive.”
Zan stared at the television, at the scenes of rescue workers milling around in the street, at the ambulances and fire trucks parked near the entrance to the subway, and almost couldn’t believe that less than an hour ago Liz had been one of those unaccounted for. His whole body went cold when he began to think about what could have happened. She could have been hurt—or burned in the second explosion. All because she was looking for me. He put his head in his hands and closed his eyes. I never shoulda left her. It woulda been all my fault.
He was still sitting there, his shoulders bowed, his face in his hands, when Liz stepped out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel. She paused when she saw him, a look of concern on her face. “Zan?” she asked quietly, taking a step toward him. “Are—are you okay?”
Zan raised his head quickly. “What? Yeah, I’m fine,” he said, trying to smile. “I—uh, I thought you were gonna shower.”
“I am,” she agreed. She picked up a bottle from the dresser and held it up. “I forgot my new conditioner.”
“Oh.” He looked at her, his eyes lingering on the bruises that marked her pure white skin. She had been hurt, more than she’d let him see. “You—you’re pretty banged up,” he said finally.
She smiled faintly. “Nothing that won’t heal.”
He stood up and stepped toward her. “Come here,” he said softly. He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, where a large purple bruise was blossoming. Liz felt a warmth spread through her shoulder and down her arm, and then the ache disappeared.
“Thank you,” she whispered, but he wasn’t finished. Slowly, his hands moved over her body, healing the scrapes and bruises he found there. Liz watched the movement of his hands, barely breathing as he knelt in front of her, skimming his hands over her hips, her thighs, her calves. When he had finished, he looked up at her, his eyes dark with emotion, and Liz’s heart ached at the guilt she saw there.
“It wasn’t your fault,” she said softly, putting her hands on his face.
“I shoulda been here with you,” he said. “You were on that train ‘cause you were lookin’ for me.”
“Why didn’t you come?” she asked in a small voice. “I waited for you. . .I didn’t know what had happened to you.”
Zan’s face contorted with guilt. “I saw you with Max,” he blurted finally. “I forgot my gloves and when I came back to get ‘em, I saw you with him in the window. He was kissin’ you, and I thought you—”
“And you thought I would leave you for him,” she finished. She shook her head. “You were wrong. I want you, Zan.”
“That’s what he said,” Zan murmured. “He came and told me. . .but I didn’t believe him.”
“Max came to see you?” she asked.
He nodded. “Yeah.”
Liz couldn’t begin to imagine that conversation, but she supposed it didn’t really matter. She stroked his hair and his face. “Zan, listen to me,” she said softly. “Max is part of my past.”
His words came in a rush. “Part I can’t compete with.” He shook his head. “You two grew up together—you’re from the same town, you got the same friends.” He looked up at her with rebellious eyes. “Me, I’m just a street kid. I got no family—I got nothin’ to offer you, Liz. But you and him—you got history.”
She laughed softly. “History? You mean like falling in love the first time I saw you? Like knowing with every breath I take I’d never love anyone like I love you?” She smiled down at him, her eyes gentle. “You mean like living and fighting a war—and even dying—and knowing the whole time that you were my destiny?”
He still hesitated. “If you go with him,” he murmured, “one day you could be a queen.”
Liz smiled and shook her head. “I never wanted to be a queen. I only want you.”
He put his arms around her waist and pressed his face against her stomach. “You got me, Liz. I swear. God, when I thought I lost you—again—”
“You didn’t,” she interrupted. “You never lost me. You never lost Ilyena, either. She loved you with her last breath. She believed in you. . .and she knew you were coming for her.”
“I was too late.”
“But you still saved her,” she said. “If you hadn’t taken her to Nania, it would have all been over, but it’s not. I’m alive, Zan. And part of her is in me. You saved her.” Liz hugged him close. “She always knew you would. . .and I knew it, too.”
Zan held her close. “I ain’t been scared for a long time,” he murmured, shaking his head. “But today. . .when I thought I might not see you again. . .I just found you, Liz. I remember what it was like to lose you, and I—”
All at once she knelt and cupped his face between her palms. “You aren’t going to lose me, Zan. Never again. I promise.” She leaned close and planted kisses on his forehead, his eyes, his cheeks. “Just promise me you won’t walk away again. Please.”
He shook his head, wrapping his hands around her wrists. “Never. I swear.”
She smiled. “Good.” And she pressed her lips to his in a searing kiss.
Zan’s pulse began to pound as she put her arms around his neck. He pulled her close, his hands roaming over her back. The towel was rough beneath his fingers, but her skin felt like satin. Her touch was like a drug, and he was already addicted. She murmured his name, and his blood rushed in his ears. Dimly, he realized that she was tugging at his shirt, and he released her long enough to pull it off. Her hands slipped over his bare skin, seeking out the corded muscles and ridges that were already familiar to her.
Or familiar again, she thought idly. She reached for the place where her towel was fastened just above her breasts, and he put his hands over hers.
“I thought you were going to shower?” he asked breathlessly.
She nodded. “Yeah. I bet the water’s nice and hot now.” She pulled the towel open and let it fall. “Join me?” she invited, standing up.
Zan’s breath caught in his throat as he stared up at her perfect, naked body. He knew in a flahs that it would take more than two lifetimes to get enough of her. “Thought you’d never ask,” he murmured, rising to his feet. He swept her into his arms and carried her into the bathroom, shutting the door behind them. Outside, a light snow had begun to fall, blanketing the city in shimmering whiteness. It would be hours before Zan or Liz ever noticed.